November 25, 2022
Hampton Estate comprises 2000 acres of historic parkland, grazing meadows, arable fields, heathland, hop gardens, award winning woodlands and traditional farm property in between Seale and Puttenham, near Farnham. Hampton Estate produces Pasture for life beef, wild roe venison, timber and hops. The team hosts a range of events throughout the year, from Open Farm Sunday to monthly meat collection days. The Estate also has a restored dairy farm which can be rented out for events and has recently opened a campsite. We chatted to CEO & Estate Manager Bill Biddell to find out more ...
Bill, tell us about Hampton Estate
Hampton Estate is a third generation, family-run, rural business. Over 600 acres of the Estate is open to the public via footpaths and we actively manage these areas for everyone to enjoy. The ethos of everything we do is to support the local community whilst also enhancing the environment and sharing Hampton’s natural beauty. We are incredibly proud of our surroundings and we focus on regenerative and restorative land management in order to preserve and enhance it. We have a huge commitment to the stewardship of the land and the part it plays in enabling thriving local communities.
Hampton Estate is known for its rich and diverse habitats. Give us a taste of what kind of wildlife and vegetation we could expect to see.
All of the Estate sits within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it has a variety of biodiverse habitats. Key habitat types include chalk downland, acidic grasslands, heathland and ancient semi-natural woodlands. We are about to embark on a big restoration project for our valuable heathland, which hopes to increase biodiversity and encourage new wildlife.
We’re also home to a wide range of wildlife with bird species including nightjar, nightingale, woodlark, red kites and buzzards. There is a wonderful diversity of plant species on the estate – some of our favourites are Shepherd’s Cress, Squirrel Tail Fescue, Hounds Tongue and Smooth Cat’s Ear. Our fungi have brilliant names too – Turquoise Elfcup, The Flirt, Stinky Knight and Chicken of The Wood.
You were awarded the Duke of Cornwall’s Award for the best multipurpose woodland in the UK – what makes the woodland so special?
We have a range of different types of woodland, from productive coniferous woods which we actively manage, felling the timber when the trees are fully grown, and then selling the timber to saw mills across the UK. We are constantly replanting woodlands, and planting trees in new places too. We have beautiful semi ancient broadleaf woodlands, and sell fire wood from coppicing. One of our woods is also home to a local Forest School, which is great!
Environmental stewardship is clearly important at Hampton Estate, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Hampton has a long tradition of opting into environmental schemes. 90% of our agricultural land and woodland is in Countryside Stewardship, which recognises our low input, conservation-based land management. We are also active members of the West Surrey Greensands Cluster group and the Estate is in a woodland bird assemblage, a designation of national importance. We are really excited to be part of several nature-based finance and restoration pilot schemes with several other stakeholders across Surrey, including the Surrey Wildlife Trust.
We believe that Hampton Estate has been used as a filming location for some big film and TV productions. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, over the years, the Estate has been used as a location for films starring the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet and Colin Firth. Possibly the biggest project was the Ridley Scott production of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. It took place over almost two years and they constructed a whole village on the Estate. We welcome these opportunities, but make sure film crews are aware of the long-term cultural and environmental value of the land – we make sure everything is put back just so after the filming!
Your hop gardens in Puttenham are the last remaining commercial hop gardens in Surrey.
Yes, that’s right, hops have been grown in the estate’s hop gardens on the southern slopes of the Hogs Back overlooking Puttenham for hundreds of years. We grow just one variety - Fuggles hops, which are revered by brewers and renowned for their distinctive, well-rounded ale flavour. As well as supplying the hops locally to The Hog’s Back Brewery, they also go further afield to Adnams, Timothy Taylor, Harvey’s of Lewes and plenty of other UK hop merchants.
As well as many events throughout the year, your beef days are particularly popular.
We breed pedigree 100% Pasture Fed Sussex beef cattle and sell the meat direct from the Estate. We are all about producing the best beef – not just delicious but also naturally reared in a way that enriches the environment our cows live in. We operate a mob-grazing system – in effect the cows are our four-legged lawnmowers! We sell the beef directly from the Estate at our monthly beef collection days. As well as fresh Hampton prime beef, wild roe venison, handmade steak pies and sausages of all varieties are available to order.
You even have a campsite – tell us about that.
Yes, we set up Waggoners Campsite during lockdown as a way of encouraging people to access nature and the outdoors. The first year went really well and we’ve extended the season from April through to October so more people can enjoy it. It’s super environmentally friendly and it’s completely off grid. All the structures we’ve built at Waggoners were constructed by our forestry team, using our own wood. We have compostable loos and the woodland showers repurpose our old hop tractor tarpaulins.
What else can we expect to find on the Estate?
There is Manor Farm Craft Centre, which is housed in traditional farm buildings next to the church in the centre of Seale. It’s home to Manor Farm Tea Room, Pip of Manor Farm Wine Shop, Seale Craft Shop, and Seale Natural Health. Our award-winning rural offices at Shoelands Farm provide a state-of-the-art space for working, with renewable heating, unlimited broadband, spacious parking and beautiful views of the Surrey Hills.